Farm to Plate at Amali in Midtown East

Herbs are not nearly as appreciated in North American cooking as they should be. Basil, mint, sage, and cilantro are popular in areas where so-called “ethnic” cuisine is valued by the consumers of this fast-food nation (and over this, my foodie heart cries). At Amali, restaurateur James Mallios’ newest venture, the menu is spiked all over with herbs that give powerful, distinctive interest to each main ingredient.

Mallios explored options for new and exciting food combinations with his trusted head chef, Devon Gilroy; the clean, fresh flavors, atmosphere, and, most of all, the devotion the restaurant would have to responsible farming were all of equal importance. They make a point of buying whole animals -as opposed to “parts”- from farmers who maintain proper living conditions for the animals, and do much of their butchering on premises. The menu that came out of that brainstorm is beautiful to look at, as are the plates of delicate-looking taste arrangements, of course. Rosemary, mint, other fresh herbs to give the meat, eggs, vegetables, and variety of dairy products simply dazzle the taste buds.

The decor is warm and cozy, with two dining rooms separated by a bustling corridor. The tables and menu-backing was made from the wood that once buttressed overhead. The bar is small, but the tender knows what she’s doing- even if you opt for something non-alcoholic, like rosemary and Meyer lemon sparkling lemonade (I sipped that apparently impromptu stroke of genius throughout the meal).

From the top of the menu, the generous wilted escarole crostini, topped with a borlotti bean puree and parmesan cheese. The crostini, with its crunchy fresh bread and beauteous, somewhat bitter escarole topping, exacted a combination of flavors and textures that led me to crave it the following day.

For our vegetarian friends, Amali’s menu has a satisfying array of options. The grilled winter squash with sheep’s milk ricotta, peppered with notes of sage and topped with pumpkin seeds is a hearty, healthy choice- a fancy comfort food, indeed. The goat cheese ravioli comes six to an order, and seriously had me floating.

The mediterranean flavors at the heart of the story extend even more heavily to the dessert menu, with the silky, creamy meyer lemon budino and sheep’s milk cannoli, richly padded with thick raw flower honey.

Upon entering, you’ll likely be greeted and seated by Mallios himself. Make sure you reserve your seats in advance, as Amali already has quite a fine following among neighbors in east Midtown.

Amali: 115 East 60th Street, NYC 10022 // 212. 339. 8363

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